HELSINKI (AP) – Finland has agreed to buy 64 Lockheed Martin fighter jets to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets in a € 10 billion ($ 11.3 billion) deal that represents the biggest purchase ever made by the Finnish military, the government said on Friday.
The Nordic country chose the American company’s F-35A fighters from among five competitors, which also included the Boeing F-18 Super Hornet, the French Dassault Rafale, the British Eurofighter Typhoon and the Swedish Saab Gripen.
The Finnish Air Force has a fleet of over 60 F-18 Hornets, acquired in the early 1990s. It started looking for a successor aircraft in 2014.
Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin said his government’s decision, based on a recommendation from the Finnish Defense Forces, to purchase the F-35A was unanimous.
“New fighters are a key part of the Finnish defense,” Marin said at a press conference. “The fighters protect the integrity of Finnish airspace, protect society from airstrikes and support the operations of the (Finnish) army and navy.
The Defense Ministry said on Friday that the price of the deal with Lockheed Martin includes training and other equipment.
The US aerospace, arms and defense company said in a statement it was “honored” that the Finnish government has chosen the F-35 “as part of its open and deep competition.”
Lockheed Martin said the deal would include “a robust weapons package, a sustainment solution tailored to Finland’s unique security of supply requirements, as well as a comprehensive training program.”
Lockheed’s direct purchases, including weapons, amount to around 8.4 billion euros, with the additional 1.6 billion going towards optimization of the weapons package, equipment, construction sheds and future amendments, the Finnish government said.
Major General Pasi Jokinen, commander of the Finnish Air Force, said the F-35 was chosen for its combat, reconnaissance and survival performance.
Finland, a member of the European Union, is a militarily non-aligned nation, but cooperates closely with NATO in a manner similar to neighboring Sweden.
Switzerland, another militarily non-aligned European country, and NATO members Denmark and Norway had previously decided to purchase the F-35.
Finland, which shares a 1340 kilometer (832 mile) border with Russia, has stepped up bilateral military and military cooperation with Sweden, Norway and the United States in recent years.
Lockheed Martin, based in Bethesda, Md., Said on Friday that there were currently more than 730 F-35s in service around the world.
Jan M. Olsen in Copenhagen, Denmark contributed to this report.
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